Math || Art


Here is the proposal I submitted, with extraneous details (budgets) stripped away for clarity

This event will be an excellent opportunity to expose the broader CU Denver community to the beauty and prevalence of mathematics. This is related to the integral mission of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) as well as the CU Denver Math Club. We want to demonstrate to people that our field doesn’t have to feel like an esoteric and unfamiliar place, especially owing to its widespread prevalence in people’s lives, which goes unnoticed.

This provides a benefit to students in more ways than one. They will get lots of free artistic material of their own creation to take home with them. Ideally, they will feel empowered by their new familiarity with mathematics. Students will also get fed well, have fun, and walk away knowing about the resources available through the clubs to learn more. As a collaborative effort between these two clubs, Inworks, and the Department of Mathematics, this event will demonstrate the power of interdisciplinary approaches to community outreach. Each station will focus on engaging students with art and providing an educational component.

After some time for eating and crowds to settle in, the event will open with a brief lecture by an artist who created the intricate display visible in front of the elevators on the 4th floor of the Student Commons Building. He is in his sixties and does not have an internet presence, but you can see his work for yourselves with a quick visit to the math department or google “Platonic and Archimedean solids.” Then we will transition to students making art for themselves at our five stations, located around the spacious Inworks facilities. For detailed information regarding each station, including the “teachable moments” possible at each one, see the Budget section.



Sculpture that use tension and gravity alone to remain upright. (see here for a famous example).

Teachable Moments: math/physics of gravity, tension, Hook’s law, structural integrity, engineering considerations when building (applied mathematics in action).


Speaks for itself. Lots of diagrams printed out to guide students (so they don’t necessarily need to follow along with the station coordinator’s example and can work on their own if they prefer)

Teachable Moment: Some mathematicians developed a “language” to describe folding and started publishing (somewhat humorous) papers on origami. Years later, this started being used for application to heat-responsive materials, self-folding structures, computational protein folding modeling, and more. You never know where curiosity with mathematics can lead. Often the theory is done for its own sake and applications follow later.


Triangular wooden tiles imprinted with envelope curves used to make beautiful sweeping designs

Teachable Moment: History of mathematics in the Islamic world, use of symmetry and tiling in architecture (both then and now), which shapes can “tile the plane” and which cannot (e.g. a hexagon is the largest shape that can do so before you have to start using two shapes. This can be intuited with tactile play, or by formal proof, mathematics as a language to describe ideas.


This one kind of needs to be seen to be understood. “Turning numbers into pretty pictures” is the best we could describe it. It’s very cool.

Teachable Moment: Take these things that people generally just regard as lists of numbers, and decide on a way to interpret them as instructions for a drawing. Repetition and rule-following can lead to surprisingly pleasing results. This can effectively teach anyone to make really intricate designs very easily and very quickly, and arises from an unexpected place.


This builds on the aforementioned event by extending the idea of rule-following for visual complexity to random numbers.

Teachable Moment: randomness is NOT disorder. Lots of lessons on probability here (this station will likely be staffed with more mathematics students than others. Similar lessons to the above, just extended to probability/random sequences.

The event was funded by grants from the Student Government Association and CU Denver Live!, with space and equipment generously donated by Inworks. It was organized as a joint effort by the CU Denver SIAM Student Chapter, Math Club, and the Department of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences.

It was held on 04/20/2017. A few pictures of the event can be found below:

“A picture is worth a thousand words. A model is worth a thousand pictures”

Michael Pilosov
An (applied) mathematician on a mission. Based in Denver, CO.